This book should be available now, so this is the last snippet.
Heart Of The World – Snippet 21
Boglu was riding up toward him, leading another horse. At the grim look on his face, his brows down and his mouth tight, Daud stiffened all over, warned. He looked past him, to the horse Boglu was leading.
Rasul lay there, across the saddle. Rasul hung there, facedown, dead.
Daud gave a violent shudder. His throat closed. He slid down from the saddle and went to the body, and put his hands on Rasul’s back. The other men gathered around him, weeping, all hugging him. He remembered the shield covering him. How Rasul had protected him, and he lowered his head and sobbed.
The horn blew again. They had to ride again. Numbly he went to Friend and mounted, and steered her back to ride beside Rasul’s body. The fields where they had just fought were covered with green vines, trampled into the dust, and pieces of flowers. His eyes kept turning toward Rasul. He wanted to tell Rasul something, but it was too late. He didn’t know what it was anyway. The sun was sinking. Soon it would be night.
Just across the river, below the hill where the ruined tower stood, was a meadow, and here Baibers brought his men to camp. They were battered, many hurt, and several dead, and in the meadow they first went together and faced Mecca and prayed to God who had chosen them to bring him victory.
Boglu and some others laid Rasul down on the ground, and straightened his clothes. Daud brought water and they washed the dead man’s body. Baibers came among them, looking each one in the eyes, and spoke to them all.
Baibers said, “Rasul is with God now. God has taken him. Don’t grieve, but rejoice for him, that he has won paradise.” His hand lay heavy as a blow on Daud’s shoulder.
Daud stood among them, empty. Everything that came to him went away. They dug Rasul down into the earth, and everybody laid stones over him.
He took care of his horse, brushing her and picking up her feet and combing her mane. This soothed him. Darkness fell. When Boglu put food before him, he ate, sitting with the others, but separate. Sleep was coming. What came with sleeping frightened him. Then Boglu draped an arm around him, as Daud had often seen him do with Rasul, and held him against his side. Daud let out his breath, relieved, and shut his eyes.
In the morning they shot their bows. When his turn came Daud drew the string back, as always the power in the bow resisting him, defying him. He saw the sack of straw down the way and he thought it could be the man who killed Rasul. He shot, and the arrow sailed wide past the sack.
He saw how it curved in the air, and when Boglu gave him another arrow he kept that curve in his mind, and drew the string back.
Then the bow came alive. It arched in his hands, part of him. He foresaw the flight of the arrow through the air, and he let go the string and the arrow pierced the sack through.
All the men around him cheered him, and they thumped his shoulders and pulled his hair. He stood, letting this happen, staring down at the arrow, and he ached that Rasul had not seen him do it.
After midday prayers, a file of men rode up toward their camp, and above them floated the green banner.
Daud saw them, and leapt to his feet; but he could see they weren’t here to fight. Baibers was going out to meet them on his bay mare, all alone. Daud frowned, struggling to make sense of this. His hand, unwilled, was on the knife in his belt.
Behind him, Boglu chuckled. He said, “I think we’re changing sides again.”
Daud startled all over, shocked. Boglu was sitting on the ground, eating an apple, and Daud looked around the camp and saw them all sitting, or standing idly, or talking, none of them caring at all what was happening. He swung forward again. He could see it was true, by the way Baibers held himself, the way the other men spoke to him.
They were asking something of him. And he was agreeing to it. The men who had killed Rasul.
Boglu said, “Well, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all one war, anyway.”
Daud sat down, to hide the shaking of his body; a black rage took him. He raked at the hard ground with his fingers, thinking of Rasul. He wondered how Baibers did not hate these men with their green banner. Why he did not strike them down.
He thought Baibers talked a lot about God. But he meant himself.
The next day they rode out across the valley, following an old road. Daud was still angry; he thought of riding up to Baibers and sticking his knife in him. On either side the fields stretched away across the plain. Here and there an orchard made a pond of shadow. They passed by a broken wall, where beggars sat and women called out. In the fields beyond people rose and dipped, picking something into baskets. Here was flat ground but to the north two low long hills rose, covered with trees.
Boglu said, “This place is full of stories. Ibraham and Isa walked here. See that hill? That is where the Giant lived. Goliath, which the shepherd boy slew.”
Daud lifted his head, the story familiar to him; he remembered the shepherd boy’s name. He almost spoke, but did not.
The Bahriyya stopped at a caravanserai and drove out most of the people to make room. Daud went around drawing water for the horses, and finding good hay in the heaps of old stuff behind the building. Boglu came to him and said, “I am going to the city here, to bring out the merchants. Come with me. I would like to see you laugh again.”
Daud followed after him, his whole mind dark. They followed the road a few miles and came to a town. A stone wall ringed it, and they went up to the gate.
There, by the gate, stood two men wearing white surcoats with red crosses on them.
A sharp shock passed through Daud, like a slap. The two men were watching them, and as Boglu led him into the archway of the gate, one knight held out his hand to stop them.
Boglu said, “I am Bahriyya, on business of the Sultan, let me pass.”
The big knight said, “Just you and this one? Where are the rest of you?”
Boglu waved vaguely behind them. The two knights looked at each other; the one who had not spoken only shrugged. The big knight said, “How long are you staying?”
“We’ll be gone by sundown. We’re just going to the bazaar.”
The knights exchanged another look, and the big one stepped back.
“Go on, then. Don’t give me any trouble.”
Daud’s heart was thumping. He rode after Boglu through the gate, and the Mameluke held back so that Friend came up even with him. Boglu leaned toward him.
“Templars. They have a quarter here. Demons of the Franks. Someday we’ll drive them into the sea.” He grunted.
They were riding down a narrow cobbled street between high buildings but ahead beyond the roofs was an expanse of sky, over a wider space. Daud swallowed hard. They came out into a great square, all lined with stalls and awnings, crowded with people. A fountain gurgled in the middle. Daud thought Boglu surely would hear the thundering of his heart. Would see the purpose in his mind. Boglu was headed toward the far side of the bazaar. Daud looked quickly around.
In front of a stall selling bread, Boglu swung down from his saddle, looped his reins over his arm, went forward to talk to the merchant. Daud slipped down from Friend and ran.
He went through the thick of the crowd, dodging and darting among people, a woman carrying a basket on her arm, two men talking with many gestures, a boy leading a donkey. Behind him, he heard a yell.
He dashed around past the fountain, headed back toward the gate where they had come in. Somebody grabbed for him but he ducked. Then to one side, he saw a white surcoat with a red cross.
He swerved that way. The square ended here in a row of buildings. Where a narrow way opened between them stood two more of the red cross knights. He heard again, behind him, Boglu’s shout.
The knights saw him coming. One stepped forward; Daud slowed. The knight held out one arm, but he was looking past Daud, toward the square, and suddenly he was waving Daud on.
The boy flew into the narrow way, into the dark little street. He turned into an alley, panting, and stopped there. Peering around the corner, he saw the two knights standing side by side in the opening, facing Boglu. He could not hear what they said but he knew by their looks the knights were turning Boglu off. Daud went off down the alley, all his skin humming, wondering what he should do next.